NC, Cong In A Fix Over Vote On Afzal Guru Plea25 September 2011
Times of India
Srinagar: On September 28, J&K's 87 MLAs will vote on the clemency plea of Afzal Guru, the man sentenced to death in the Parliament attack case. The main opposition party, the PDP, has announced that its 21 MLAs will vote for the resolution. The BJP shall vote against. The National Conference-Congress combine, though, are yet to make up their mind. Congress had decided to abstain, but then came the news they might allow their MLAs to vote according to their conscience. NC's indecision reflects the political difficulties that would follow from whatever stance it takes on the issue. Voting against the plea would alienate their voters in Kashmir. Voting for clemency would embarrass its partner, the Congress. Within the NC, however, there is realization that the vote is perhaps a self-inflicted wound, and the man most insiders blame is chief minister Omar Abdullah. It began with a tweet, reacting to the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly for clemency to those sentenced to death for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. Omar twee-ted, 'If J&K assembly had passed a resolution similar to the TN one for Afzal Guru, would the reaction have been as muted? I think not.' A few days later, an independent MLA, Rashid Ali Engineer, moved such a resolution. It was then the NC realized what a minefield it had entered. Guru's case arouses polar opposite sentiments. In Kashmir, he is seen as the scapegoat who didn't get a fair trial and doesn't deserve the death sentence. Across India, he is seen as the man responsible for not only attacking Parliament at the behest of Pakistan-based terror groups, but also a precursor to people like Ajmal Kasab. As PDP sits back and watches, Omar may yet realize that sometimes trouble is just a tweet away.